What I answered when I was asked: “Are you a Feminist?”

March 8, International Women's Day (english text 1)As I dug shards of broken glass out of her head and called for backup, the children were disengaged from the event. The baby was sleeping, the 2 year old boy stared into space while the 5 year old girl stared at her brother. Mom was telling me that she can’t go to the hospital because her children needed her here. Another night shift at the women’s shelter in 1984.

The next day, flowers appeared at the door with a letter of apology from the husband explaining his stress and what she had done to trigger him. He promised to never do it again. He was a handsome, well liked businessman who had friends in the police force who gave him our confidential address. They were the most frightening flowers I have ever seen.

Healing begins

The two year old boy could not speak full sentences. But he clearly called his Mom “a ****ing bitch”. He had heard it every day of his life. He mimicked his father’s anger and need to be the center of attention. We supported and guided her to give him a different model of behaviour.

Within three weeks, Mom’s stitches were out and her soul was healing. She was funny, incredibly intelligent, model beautiful and the most devoted mother you can imagine. Her laughter was infectious and music to our ears. How she survived the emotional and physical brutality was inspiring.

Why she went back

After Dad’s networking contacts told him which school we sent our children to, he showed up at recess, scooped up that 5 year old girl before the school could stop him and told Mom to come home or never see her again. The police said it was his right to see his children.

Two weeks later, Mom was back at the shelter with bruises hiding her beautiful freckles. The children were quiet again. The following day, we arranged for her to disappear to another province and claimed she left our shelter and that we had no information on her or the children.

There are underground networks to protect women around the world. Even in North America.

Am I a feminist?

In 2010, having returned to school, I applied for a part-time job at my local women’s shelter. I wanted something easy to do while studying. During the interview, I was asked if I was a feminist.

This caught me completely off guard. I have often joked that if you looked up the word “male chauvinist pig” in the dictionary, there was a picture of my father with my mother looking on obediently.

In response to the interviewer’s question, I stated “feminist” was a term I hadn’t heard in years and that I grew up hearing it with very negative connotations. I calmly said that I easily identify myself as a humanist. Then, I began to think out loud.

“Let’s see, when I started working in 1979, when we were lucky to get a good job, women earned $0.65 to a man’s dollar for work of equal value.

In interviews, I would be asked if I had children and was I planning a family. Today, the questions are less direct about family, but despite being masked, we all know they still exist for women. Over thirty years later, we earn just north of $0.70.

Men are still controlling women’s reproductive rights around the world. In most companies, men experience more entitlement, while women experience more bias. For example: He’s confident and a leader while she is bossy.

This is ridiculous and our value as a human shouldn’t be based on whether we were born with a penis or not. You know what, you’re damned right I’m a feminist.”

I was still calm but resolved. Also, I got the job.

March 8th is International Women’s Day. I believe both genders should have equal opportunities and value. I am a feminist. Are you?

 

6 thoughts on “What I answered when I was asked: “Are you a Feminist?”

  1. Thank you Monique for so vividly sharing why we still need a spirit of feminism, even in Canada, one of the most desirable places in the world to live.
    I, too, have worked in a women’s shelter. When they are no longer required, then perhaps, we might no longer require active feminism.

    • Monique Caissie

      How wonderful to hear from such a professional as you. I agree wholeheartedly. Front line workers are not blogging. The stories remain buried unless people like us speak up.

    • I was simply commenting on Women’s day. It is not my specialty. I guess part 2 is my life as I live it. Thank you for your comment.

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